Christmas weekend, a commercial invitation for Community of Christ will be airing on local TV stations in the greater Kansas City area. It is being aired by three mission centers: Central Mission, Midlands Mission Center, and Far West.
The commercials were created by a team including Tom Cochran, Brady Cackler, and Bryce Veazey. The commercial advertises a link that will help visitors find a Community of Christ congregation near them. The site goes live Christmas eve.
I celebrate these commercials.
As I think of these commercials airing across Kansas City, it’s interesting to consider the mixed views surrounding the current relationship of church and culture. The idea of Community of Christ commercials certainly takes a step toward our world of media dominated communication, multimedia experience, and its emotional power over us. The long discussion of the relationship between church and culture is a centuries old theological one. Listen to the variety of perspectives on issues like sexuality and mega-churches or contemporary worship, you will hear the legacy of perspectives and their imprint on the church today.
Consider, for instance, the many views among church-goers on mega-churches and contemporary worship. Especially among members of small churches, you don’t have to go far to find those who lament how worship has become more and more like entertainment. It’s more than a few. I’ve heard liberal and conservative, young and old, express how mega-churches cheapen church membership and entertainment doesn’t belong in church. Listen to the heated opinions around sexuality and orientation and you’ll also hear members policing the borders of church and culture even more. Both sides lay claim. On one side, accepting homosexuality just dilutes faith with more worldly attitudes. Culture has gone morally adrift. While the other side is adamant that discriminating against same-sex love is less-than-prophetic at best, and reflects the spiritual failure of popular Christianity. Again, where the church marks off its separation from the world and culture is deeply important.
With commercials, Community of Christ again joins the fray.
Now that I live in Lamoni,I live among the Amish. The Amish are an example of Christian community whose identity is deeply embedded with a sense of separation from surrounding society. On one end of the spectrum, the Amish police the boundaries of their community and its practices to preserve a way of life that sets it apart and keeps sacred a visible sense of community and culture. The Amish do not have televisions or internet, let alone commercials inviting others to join them.
On the other end, the seemingly most culturally accommodating Christians – American evangelicals – do the same. Driving minivans and crossovers to the mall and talking on iPhones, evangelical Christians permeate ever strata of our society. Yet, they mark themselves off with a strong sense of belief and religious identity. The success of evangelicalism, however, rests not in their separation from our culture but in the success evangelicalism has in baptizing almost anything. From raves to retro, fashion to finances, and dating services, evangelicalism is distinct in how it accommodates and transforms any cultural medium with its message. Christianity crossed with mass production.
It’s interesting to consider how the RLDS/Community of Christ fits in this sort of continuum. On the one hand, the church has been too small to have a television presence like the Mormons. However, the church’s media presence, however small, is not new . In the 1920′s, the RLDS church owned a radio station (KFIX, later KLDS and KMBZ), which broadcast from the Auditorium. Rummage around an old congregation and you will still find the broadcast sermons of Arthur Oakman or Evan Fry, either in print or on tape. The church also ran TV ads sporadically in the Kansas City area in the 1980′s and 90′s.
While the relationship of church and culture is interesting, to some degree it doesn’t matter. There is something powerful in watching the faces of friends on the screen in this new commercial. I’m moved as I see the church where Margo and I were married (Stone Church), and the images of people projected upon it in a way that transforms the building. I have emotions as the commercial ends with the name of my church in the center of the screen.
If God would stoop so low to be born human, any church that bears Jesus’ name should consider any means necessary to extend God’s invitation. “A community for you,” that’s what the commercial advertises. It is professionally done, moving, and creative. While I’m sure the commercial took tremendous time, effort, and money, I think the challenge will not be getting it aired. It’ll be delivering on what it promises: a community for whomever’s watching.
Great job, brothers Tom, Brady, and Bryce. May our congregations live up to their name and embrace whomever walks through their doors.
Over 250,000 may be watching.